By Mark Ramsey | 2005/10/14

One might think a failed TV series wouldn’t lead to big screen follow-up. But by “one” I don’t mean any “one” at Universal Pictures.

“You’re talking about the studio that produced Van Helsing,” said Serenity director/writer Joss Whedon. “One time my cat spit up and Universal bought the treatment. They’d film the phone book if only they could find the action sequence.”

“Not so,” shot back Universal chairman Stacey Snider. “Not before we changed ‘yellow pages’ to ‘Asian-American pages.’”

I think I made more money selling lemonade at the cornerserenity_ceiling.jpg

than Universal made on this picture in its opening bow. “Oh well,” sighed Whedon, “we’re hoping to make it up on the DVD. We’re planning to lie and say it was made by PIXAR.”

The problem here is less with the movie and more with the stars, and I use the term “stars” so loosely it’s about to slip off this page and onto your keyboard.

Not only will the audience fail to recognize these actors, but, said Captain Nathan Fillion, “in a pile of head shots I can’t even recognize myself.”

Yes, this cast is better schooled in the menu at Friday’s than in the art of the big screen: “I can’t load this space rifle, Captain, but I can get you an order of loaded potato skins!”

“Serenity,” for those of you in the dark, is the name of the space ship our heroes pilot.

And it’s shaped like a domestic pet.

“It’s the only ship in the fleet powered by Snausages and Beggin’ Strips,” said Captain Nathan. “We can spot the friendlies by the smell of their butts.”

Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, used his considerable weight to push Universal into shooting this movie entirely in LA. “That way, we could all be closer toserenity_craft.jpg

our day jobs,” said supporting player Alan Tudyk who graciously offered to trim production expenses by eliminating vowels from his name. “I just cut my name mid-syllable,” said newcomer Summer Glau.

Summer is a potent human weapon with psychic powers whose every step reflects years of ballet training. How does ballet make a weapon? By keeping a foe on its toes, of course. “My demi-plie is licensed to kill,” says Summer, who resembles a fresh-faced Alanis Morissette.

“She may look like me,” said the real Morissette, “but if I were psychic I would have remade my first album ten times by now.”

Summer’s a graceful killing machine. “I got my start in the Nutcracker but now I just crack nuts,” she said. It’s a role Christina Ricci was both born and too expensive to play.

Away our heroes go to a far-off planet. In this universe every planet is “terraformed” to resemble…the California desert! “They used to shoot Bonanza on this planet,” said Whedon. “And I used to work at the Death Valley Fridays,” added Tudyk, “which is several parsecs thataway!”

And then there’s the actor named Chiwetel Ejiofor, which is pronounced, uh, “Skip.” “My mother had a vision in a bowl of alphabet soup,” he explained. “But I think she was blind in one eye.”

It seems like folks don’t live very long in outer space. Pretty much the only players here over 30 are wearing hair nets in craft service. “Well, it’s a costume of sorts,” said craft service spokesperson Juan Martinez, who lovingly described potato chips as “the James Cromwell of crew cuisine.”

“If only Revlon bottled tears I would cry!” said one character as the situation turned particularly dire.

Check out this dialogue: “Going on a year now I ain’t had nothin’ twixt my nethers that weren’t run on batteries.” No matter how many times you run the phrase “twixt my nethers” through the Avid, it doesn’t get any better.

But don’t get the wrong idea. All in all this is a terrific movie that is not nearly getting the love it deserves. That’ll serve Joss Whedon right next time he considers enlisting twinkle lights for a star’s job.

Shine on, Joss.

Photos Copyright ©2005 Universal Pictures

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